As a 39+ year veteran of the mortgage industry, I’ve seen change. And I know homeownership continues to strengthen communities. Focusing on how every customer can achieve the goal of homeownership is good for all of us.
Don’t take my word for it – you don’t have to search hard to find surveys and market data that point to a similar conclusion: owning a home enhances a person’s quality of life, opportunity for education and path to financial stability. But for some, owning a home is a part of the American dream that’s out of reach. Among other challenges, the impact of the pandemic on low- and moderate-income (LMI) areas is real.
I see all types of borrowers face lack of knowledge about credit and lending. In the financial services industry, we’re in a position to offer financial education, resources and support to help all of our customers become more financially stable. At Regions, we’ve had success partnering with our branch network, business customers, government agencies, non-profits and more to reach customers and prospects with free financial education.
In addition, I’ve seen the value of offering mortgage solutions and programs tailored to the unique needs of LMI borrowers. For example, in 2020, Regions saw a way we could help some customers secure funds to take the crucial step of purchasing a home and created a down payment assistance program that has served more than 250 families since it launched last May.
Finally, I’ve seen how community involvement is part of the equation, whether it leads to new business for the bank or not. There are examples of our teams volunteering to help strengthen our communities, such as a team in Tampa that recently packed food boxes at a local food bank. Also, we have grown our team of Regions Mortgage community lenders. These loan officers spend part of their time in community outreach and teaching financial education. This model has helped us find new ways to plug in to community needs.
The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) certainly drives financial institutions to meet the credit needs of all those we serve. But the main reason we focus on fair lending is because it’s the right thing to do – and it strengthens the communities we serve.
I’ve seen the mortgage industry evolve, with a growing emphasis on assisting all borrowers, regardless of socioeconomic background. At Regions, I see our efforts helping us move forward – applications and loans in LMI areas are on the rise, which I credit to the dedication of the Regions Mortgage team.
We all need to ask ourselves if we’re doing our best with the resources we have to benefit all our customers. If we can help LMI borrowers by offering financial education and financial solutions to fit their needs and commit time to serving the community, we can help all customers achieve the dream of homeownership and make all of our markets stronger.